The Athletic’s Keith Law says the Orioles would take Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who hit 54 home runs for the Sun Devils from 2018-2020, with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft should he not be taken No. 1 overall.
The Detroit Tigers hold the top pick in the draft, which will last 5-10 rounds and be held in June or July.
Law says the top two prospects in the draft are Torkelson and Vanderbilt’s multi-positional dynamo Austin Martin. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Torkelson is a career .337/.463/.729 hitter at Arizona State. He broke the program’s freshman home run record set by Barry Bonds and would’ve become the school’s all-time leading home run hitter if not for the COVID-19 pandemic; he fell two homers short of tying Bob Horner’s program record of 56.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Martin, who helped Vanderbilt win the 2019 College World Series, is a career .368/.474/.532 hitter. Though he started 52 games at third base in 2019, he had become the Commodores’ regular center fielder this spring before the season was shut down. Martin also played some second base at Vanderbilt.
“Austin Martin’s a much better athlete, more upside, plays some higher-skill positions — maybe center field, I’ve seen him really good at third base — speed, bat speed, some power, still room to grow,” Law said on Glenn Clark Radio April 21. “Torkelson is a finished product. He is a slugging first baseman. As long as he makes enough contact, he’s going to be a good big leaguer.
“My understanding is that [Torkelson is] the guy the Orioles would just take if he were there. They would not mess around. That said, if Torkelson goes first and the Orioles have to take Austin Martin, not a bad consolation. It’s a really good college draft, and picking second is just fine.”
Should Baltimore take Torkelson or Martin with the No. 2 pick, it’ll mark the second straight year they will have taken a position player with a premium pick; the Orioles took catcher Adley Rutschman out of Oregon State last June with the No. 1 overall pick. Nine of Baltimore’s first 11 picks last year were position players, and seven of those nine came from the college ranks.
Law said his No. 3 draft prospect behind Martin and Torkelson is Asa Lacy of Texas A&M. Lacy, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-hander, became a staple of the Aggies’ rotation as a sophomore in 2019, posting a 2.13 ERA and punching out 130 hitters in 88.2 innings, and he was well on his way to taking another big step forward this year. He had struck out 33 and given up two runs in 17.0 innings before the season was shut down.
“If they had a full spring, maybe Asa Lacy pitches out of his mind the entire spring and ends up the top statistical pitcher in the country and then he does sneak into the [top] one or two picks,” Law said. “I really don’t think that’s going to happen. I especially don’t think the Orioles would take a pitcher with either of those two college position players just sitting there in front of them.”
Though the Orioles are poised to add a blue-chip talent to their farm system whenever the draft takes place, the pandemic has made the path to competition unclear for those already in the system. Baseball America recently reported that “there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”
A canceled minor-league season would mean lost development time for prospects, which Law said could be particularly harmful to a rebuilding team like the Orioles. Law added that in the case of a canceled season, next spring clubs would likely opt to send prospects to the level they would’ve started at this year as to not short-circuit their development. Plus, every team will be adding new prospects via the draft later this year.
“It’s why I hope we can at least fake some kind of minor-league season or we do an extended Arizona Fall League, anything like that to get these guys some reps to keep the conveyer belt moving because otherwise we’re going to end up with sort of weird logjams and players not getting the development time that they absolutely needed,” Law said.
That said, Law is optimistic that there will be some form of a big-league season this year. He explained that he had Dr. Paul Sax of the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston on “The Keith Law Show,” his podcast for The Athletic, to discuss the potential outlook for baseball this year. Law said Sax was “more optimistic than I expected him to be that we’ll see some games this year.”
But if baseball is totally wiped out this year, how would that affect the 2021 MLB Draft? Would it be the same draft order as it is in 2020?
“I believe Major League Baseball could just say, ‘Well, we’re going to keep things the way they are. We’ll keep the same draft order,’” Law said. “Any changes to that would have to be negotiated, because the union has some say over the draft because of free-agent draft-pick compensation.
“If there is no 2020 season — I’m still very hopeful that we’re not going to get to that point — you’re going to see a lot of changes frankly all over the board to service time, pay, draft structure, so it will be part of a much larger negotiation that we get probably into the fall.”
To hear Law discuss his new book, “The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves,” listen to the full interview here:
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